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TBT: Progress on TV

By Kelly McMahon

This week, I was struck by this 1990 Black History Month article from The Villanovan. In the article, then entertainment editor Stephen Powers offers us a brief history of black television, from the “golden years” of the 1950s, to the radical changes in the 1980s with the creation of The Cosby Show and Family Matters.

While he writes that progress has been made since the 1950s when it comes to diverse representation on major sitcoms and soap operas, Powers concludes his article by acknowledging that despite these advances, “there is still some progress to be made,” citing what was then top television shows with casts that were illogically all white, like Cheers and Murphy Brown. He also critiques Saturday Night Live, which in 1990 featured an entirely white cast.

In the 1990 article, Powers writes that he believes progress will be made in the next decade. Now, three decades later, progress has indeed been made. Major sitcoms like Blackish, Mixed-Ish, Good Trouble, and Grownish prioritize diversity of all kinds, from race to sexuality, gender identity, and ability. Since 1990, Saturday Night Live has grown to be incredibly diverse, too.

However, now, just like 1990 when Powers was writing, more progress can still be made. Despite the presence of diverse television shows, sitcoms with (almost) all white casts like The Office and Friends still gather large followings and huge viewerships. The 2017 reboot of Dynasty (a show Powers mentions) is almost as white as it was in earlier iterations. Large cable programs like The Bachelor and Bachelorette rarely (and sometimes never) feature people of color.

Villanovan article: "Blacks progress on TV"


Would Powers be satisfied with the progress that has been made? Does this article feel strangely topical despite being thirty years old? Let us know your thoughts via Instagram (@villanovalibrary) or Twitter (@FalveyLibrary).

Kelly McMahon CLAS ’22 is a student assistant in the Communication and Marketing office at Falvey Memorial Library.


Celebrate Black History Month: READ!

By Daniella Snyder

'Cat In the Stacks Logo and Banner

I’m Daniella Snyder, a graduate student at Villanova University, and your ’Cat in Falvey Memorial Library’s Stacks. I’ll be posting about academics–from research to study habits and everything in between–and how the Falvey can play a large role in your success here on campus!

Hey, Wildcats, big things are happening next week in Falvey for Black History Month.

On Tuesday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., join members of the Villanova community in Speakers’ Corner for the African American Read-In. We’ll be listening to and reading cherished texts aloud. Falvey will have materials available to read, from poetry to scientific papers, but you should feel free to bring your own book.

The Read-In is sponsored by the Department of Education and Counseling; Falvey Memorial Library; the Department of English; the Department of Communication; the Gender and Women’s Studies Program and CLAS Diversity; and the Equity and Inclusion Committee. The African American Read-In is affiliated with the National Council of Teachers of English and Villanova University’s Black History Month.

Here at Falvey, we’ve been gathering library goers’ favorite books by authors of color. Here are some of the more popular recommendations that are available in our stacks:

the bluest eye cover

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

In Toni Morrison’s first novel, published in 1970, she tells the story of Pecola Breedlove growing up during the years following the Great Depression. Morrison, a Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, was (and still is) an American literary genius and hero.

The Fire Next Time

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

James Baldwin wrote this nonfiction book in 1963. It contains two essays, each of them relating to the role of race in the United States and religion. Along with essays, Baldwin also wrote fiction and plays, and his writing addresses the intersections of race and masculinity, sexuality, spirituality, and class.

sister outside

Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde, feminist icon, composed a collection of essays and speeches dating from 1976 to 1984, and speaks to her identity as a black woman, lesbian, and mother. The essays in this collection are considered landmark works that have inspired decades of third and fourth-wave feminist thought.

Between the World and Me

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Coates drew from his own life growing up in Baltimore to write this nonfiction book in 2015 . Inspired by the structure of Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, Coates wrote the book in the form of a letter to his teenage son in an attempt to explain to him the racist violence that has become woven into American culture. It was named one of the best books of the decade in The New York Times.

What will you be reading for the African American Read-In? Tell us @villanovalibrary on Instagram or tweet us @falveylibrary!

Daniella Snyder HeadshotDaniella Snyder, graduate assistant in the Communication & Marketing Department, recommends reading [insert] boy by Danez Smith for Black History Month.





Foto Friday: Celebrate Black History Month on Campus

By Kallie Stahl

Flyer of Black History Month events.

Kallie Stahl ’17 MA is Communication and Marketing Specialist at Falvey Memorial Library. 


Pugilists, poetry, and prose for Black History Month

Black History is not a particular focus of our Special Collections department, but we do have a few noteworthy items with which I was able to put together a small exhibit on the first floor of the library. Only one of these books is available in our Digital Library, but the others are available through the Internet Archive. Here, then, is a brief look at some of these historically interesting books.

Peter "Black Prince" Jackson.

The portrait gallery of pugilists of America and their contemporaries by Billy Edwards (Philadelphia: Pugilistic Pub. Co., 1894) profiles many of the noteworthy boxers of the late nineteenth century. Although the majority of pugilists included in the book are white, the book gives a good view of the racial tensions in boxing at the end of the nineteenth century. One of the black boxers profiled in the book is Peter “Black Prince” Jackson (1861-1901). The descendant of a freed slave, he was an Australian heavyweight boxer who had a significant international career, although the Australian Dictionary of Biography Online notes that “Jackson was one of the finest boxers never to fight for a world championship: John Sullivan refused to defend his title against a black and [James J.] Corbett avoided Jackson once he gained the heavyweight crown in 1892.” For more on Jackson’s career as “a black fighter in a white world,” see the full article here.

Hampton and its students by two of its teachers, Mrs. M.F. Armstrong and Helen W. Ludlow (New York: G. P. Putnam, 1875), tells of the founding of the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in 1868, shortly after the conclusion of the U.S. Civil War, by black and white leaders of the American Missionary Association. The roots of this school went back further, however, to a “simple oak tree” on a former plantation that served as a gathering place for former slaves who sought refuge there with the Union Army in 1861. One of the school’s earliest students was Booker T. Washington, who arrived in 1872 at the age of 16, and later became a renowned educator and author. Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute shortened its name in 1930 to Hampton Institute, and in 1984 it was accredited as Hampton University.

Photo illustration from "Poems of Cabin and Field."

Poems of cabin and field by Paul Laurence Dunbar (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1900) includes poems in dialect by Dunbar paired with photographs from the Hampton Institute camera club. Dunbar was the first African American poet to win national acclaim. He was born in Dayton, Ohio, in 1872, to former slaves. Dunbar’s work included poems in dialect as well as standard English, essays, short stories, and novels. His work often described the difficulties faced by African Americans as they tried to achieve equality. To read more about Dunbar’s life and work, see the University of Dayton’s Paul Laurence Dunbar Website.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (Cleveland: J. P. Jewett & Company, 1852) is one of the most widely-known novels about slavery. Published in 1852, this novel focuses on the character of Uncle Tom, a long-suffering slave, around whom the other characters’ stories revolve. The novel portrays the reality of slavery while also emphasizing that Christian love can overcome anything, even the enslavement of fellow human beings. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the best-selling novel of the nineteenth century, selling 300,000 copies in the United States in its first year of publication. The novel was heavily criticized by those who supported slavery, especially in the South, while it received praise from abolitionists. In response to such negative criticism, Stowe produced A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Boston: J. P. Jewett & Co., 1853) one year after Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Stowe maintained that she based her novel on the stories of fugitive slaves she encountered in Ohio. This book was also a best-seller.

Uncle Remus, his songs and his sayings: the folk-lore of the old plantation by Joel Chandler Harris (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1881) was a collection of animal stories, songs, and other forms of oral folklore that were compiled into written form by Harris, who remembered hearing them from slaves while he worked on a plantation as a young man. The stories are rendered in Harris’s version of a Deep South slave dialect. Br’er Rabbit is the main character of many of the stories. He is a trickster, often getting himself into scrapes with Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear. The stories often convey a lesson, much like Aesop’s Fables.

Both Harriet Beecher Stowe and Joel Chandler Harris were white Americans who wrote stories about African Americans and slavery. First published in the latter half of the nineteenth century, both authors were praised by their contemporaries for the accuracy of their depiction of African Americans in what was then considered to be a non-racist manner. Although attitudes have changed since then and the stereotypes and dialects of the stories are now deemed offensive, Stowe and Harris both remain important and influential figures. Stowe’s work helped to fuel the abolitionist cause and, according to some, was also an influence leading up to the Civil War. Harris’s Uncle Remus tales were an accurate recording of tales told by slaves, which helped to preserve their folklore for future generations.



Last Modified: February 23, 2011